Health

Monty Python's silly walks recommended by doctors to stay healthy

Replace your daily commute walk with a Mr Teabag-style silly walk to increase fitness and reduce mortality, say medical researchers

Men take part in a "Silly Walk" event to perform the cult comedy Monty Python's special way to walk, kicking their legs to their heads, stumbling or walking backwards. (Photo by Radek Mica / AFP) (Photo by RADEK MICA/AFP via Getty Images)

Remember being taught in PE lessons how to swing your arms while running, or bend your arms while swimming in the most energy-efficient way possible? Well, it turns out we’ve been exercising all wrong.

Walking ‘“inefficiently” could be more likely to help you reach those exercise goals, according to new research published by the British Medical Journal, and – importantly – it should be done in the style of Mr Teabag from The Ministry of Silly Walks.

In case you’re not acquainted with this lesser known government body, its founding members are Mr Teabag and Mr Putey, played by John Cleese and Michael Palin in the 1971 TV Show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.

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Half a century after the now infamous sketch was broadcast, a group of medical researchers have taken it upon themselves to find out whether such “low efficiency walking” could have any health benefits, in comparison with the “high efficiency walking” walking most of us have become accustomed to. 

“To fill this vital research gap”, the BMJ writes, 23 healthy adults were asked to recreate, “to the best of their ability”, the walks of Mr Teabag and Mr Putey around an indoor 30-metre course. 

In the sketch, government drones Mr Teabag and Mr Putey work in London’s Whitehall, where the rule that all walking must be done in a silly style is preventing anything getting done. Remind you of another government that struggled to get much done in recent months? 

“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting but I’m afraid my walk has become rather sillier recently so it takes me rather long” says a bowler-hatted Mr Teabag (Cleese), while marching on the spot then thrusting his legs around the room. 

He has arrived to meet Mr Putey, who is seeking government funding to further develop his own, unique silly walk, which is, unfortunately, deemed “not particularly silly”. 

To test the exercise efficiency of the silly walks, the recent study calculated the calories participants burned, their average speed and oxygen uptake, to compare it with their normal walking styles. And they came to a ground-breaking scientific conclusion. 

The researchers found that the silly walk of Mr Teabag – but not Mr Putey – resulted in a significantly greater energy expenditure, leading them to recommend that walking Mr Teabag style for 12 to 19 minutes each day “would likely increase cardiorespiratory fitness [and] reduce mortality risk.”

And even better, working the new exercise into your daily routine “would require no extra time commitment because it replaces movement adults already do with higher energy physical activity.”

What’s not to love? 

“Our analysis of the energy consumed during different styles of walking seeks to empower people to move their own bodies in more energetic—and hopefully joyful—ways”, said the authors of the study. 

“Efforts to boost cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for all.”

If you’d like to have a go at exercising inefficiently this Christmas, here’s a handy illustrated guide.

Just don’t expect it to catch on too quickly at your local gym.

Replace your daily commute walk with a Mr Teabag-style silly walk to increase fitness and reduce mortality, says very serious medical researchers
A step-by-step guide to a silly walk. Image: Jazeen Hollings/Wikimedia Commons

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